tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN November 17, 2014 12:00pm-2:01pm EST
ability to deter us. we will, if we decide to strike them, disarm them. whatever residual forces they have left will not be able to penetrate the impenetrable "star wars" defense. don't laugh. it was serious. it is laughable in a way. one of my colleagues al, who some of you may know in this room, said at the time, through the mid '80s, the soviets were panicked over "star wars" which got a lot of press. . .
we find ourselves in the '90s in a whole new world. the decline of nuclear weapons. we have an arms control treaty, start one at the very beginning of the decade. we have international structure which is no longer why polar. it could be called unipolar. we have globalization is the recent pieces to it but it appears to be part of a fundamental new world order. i love that phrase. it has the imagery of military force that still there but not nuclear weapons. economic measures of power were going to be so much more
important. there was a prediction of the decline of the nationstate in the concept of national sovereignty where international commerce information, technology would replace this. the book that captures of course was friedmans lexus, and all of tree, eventually the world was flat. a piece in foreign affairs that was her influential also predicted this new world we were moving into. military power was still relevant of course because the decade began with the war to throw the iraqis out of kuwait. but really there was a huge, huge and i don't reduction in nuclear, strategic nuclear forces. nato no longer have to contend with warsaw pact, we were not worried about the soviet union. it was gone and russia was our partner.
and thus begins the first decade of the 21st century. it is the bush-obama decade. force remains relevant immediately it's it comes relevant. on september 11, we discover a new kind of terrorism. we are involved immediately in afghanistan and iraq. military force is government on the table but it is conventional military force that we emphasize. it becomes clear to the world that united states of america has unique capacity to project force with incredible precision. modernization a curse but not in the nuclear weapons or their systems as i've been describing. modernization comes with the improvement in the delivery of that force projection. we embrace now and ability not only to project force with
precision but to do more quickly. so we have prompt global strike instead of days or weeks, sometimes to deploy forces in order to do this damage recruit missiles can aircraft whatever we want to be a blue to put it away, within hours. ideally within 24 hours. initially we hit upon fidelity systems of nuclear weapons. more than one strategist believes, not the we deemphasize nuclear weapons is to deliver them with very reliable icbm. and it becomes clear that many people feel that this might create ambiguities in the minds of the russians and the chinese, and maybe we should just strategic nuclear systems to deliver conventional munitions. we have been thinking of other ways of accomplishing that objective. it's still conventional, not
nuclear. there is a doctrine to go along with this. the doctrine was one of the actually preventive war but masquerading as preemptive war. we argued that, of course, we were engaging in preemption when we, in fact, were not. iraq was not about to attack us. just not come not in what one understands the word preemption. while this is going on in, nuclear weapons numbers have dropped to one-tenth of what they were in the '90s. from 30,000 to a few thousand. sort the bush administration arms control to allow gives way to new s.t.a.r.t., giving way to the obama administration, 2010. and we're down to depend on how
you count roughly 1500, 1550 deployed strategic nuclear weapons. much diminished nuclear weapons. there's also a deemphasize and i would say the popular press, the four horsemen article if you recollect of this. henry kissinger, george shultz, bill perry, sam nunn write a piece about zero nuclear weapons. and the interesting thing is they say we are not getting. this is not just that the npt requires us to commit to this goal. they said that's what to be going. that's the only safe future for the world. now, that's what they said as a group. obama at prague makes a speech in which he says zero nuclear
weapons, maybe in my lifetime he says, but that's what we are headed. and he says this is not just rhetoric. he meant it. he said we're going after the comprehensive test ban treaty. he said we're going after the fissile material cutoff treaty to stop production of fissile mature. he said we will deal with the fuel cycle problems which impacted the proliferation problem that will establish international fueled dance so we wouldn't have to have the problem of uranium enrichment. and it will be more and more reductions we will accomplished unilaterally if necessary. that was the first decade of the 21st century. we are now at the midpoint of the second decade of the 21st century. the big thing that happens now, as i go back to georgetown, that's clearly, that's clearly the news.
north korea, we begin with north korea for decades. but if we look at north korea now halfway through this decade, north korea has not been out with. north korea is following the classic pattern of plutonium and highly enriched uranium as fissile material for the nuclear weapons. they are developing a variety of delivery vehicles including interestingly a weapon which might actually reach continental united states with one of those nuclear weapons. presumed. it will have a circular error probability of the size of ohio but we still would not be happy about this development with north korea. plus they have been engaging in transfers. knowers it is transfer and
ballistic missiles to other countries. the pakistanis, their main line medium-range ballistic missile. it's a north korean -- the mainline medium-range ballistic missiles at iran has deployed is a north korean no dome. you may have heard that in 2000 the north koreans were discovered to build in syria, you remember syria, used to be a country. they had built in this area able to own them production reactor, identical to their plutonium production reactor at pyongyang. i used to rail about nuclear terrorism talks that concerned about the transfer of fissile material from one country to
another. very often critics would say that you've been reading too many spy novels, watching too many movies, that's not going to happen, would catch us. insane that we would catch the transfer of an amount of material that would fit in that coffee cup for nominal nuclear fisher weapon. insane. we did not catch the transfer of that is doing the production reactor to syria to the israeli state. they live closer. they have all kinds of explanations but they did and they told us. then the israelis pursue their version of a nonproliferation. otherwise in the situation with syria they would be a plutonium production reactor there. doesn't require enriched uranium. natural uranium will do. that's not to our to get in this world. this is a situation that has
evolved -- default from north korea to her it is today. it's quite different. with a country that is itself provocative to japan and to south korea, threatening our extended deterrent, its credibility we have a country that is transferring the material, the production capability to make nuclear weapons and when the country that within a matter of months and years can put a nuclear weapon on the continent of the united states of america. this is new and it is with us now, and that's north korea. take iran. please. [laughter] iran also is following the classic route of plutonium and highly enriched uranium. highly enriched uranium has a lot more attention. but you've heard about the iraq
reactor also. a heavy water moderated fueled reactor. the heavy water production facility that would produce if run in normal conditions a normal range power range that would produce ideal plutonium for nuclear weapons. it is i would say another larger plutonium production reactor to go with the iranian program. they have completed the work necessary to design and manufacture the triggering package for the fissile material which to the best of our knowledge don't have that could have relatively quickly. yes, there are negotiations but yes the 24th of november is a very important date in these negotiations. they could fail. or they could succeed. hideaway, but iran is going to have a nuclear reactor and is going to have some enrichment
capability. exactly how much i don't know. either way the negotiations fail, or if they succeed israel will not be happy to israel has not been happy with of the country with their nuclear facilities before, and you've watched what is happening in iraq and in syria. i am not not predicting anything. i am merely making observation. this is not a good situation. this could be another nuclear weapons state in the middle east. we could have a very complicated situation with the saudis, egyptians and others who have just about promised us that if the iranians proceed with a genuine nuclear weapons program, they will not stand idly by. thithis could get very come to d in the middle east and very quickly. pakistan. pakistan, for about 20 years, had a sort of what i would sometimes call a recessed nuclear weapons capability.
in other words, it had the capability in the late 80s to manufacture nuclear weapons. it didn't. we don't think at that point. it did serve in the late 90s when they tested a series of test right after the indian series of tests that things have changed but it is no longer recess. it's no longer possible for the pakistanis to maintain a have a minimum deterrent capability, just enough to deter the indians. nonsense. that's not where they are now. they have adopted american policy from the '50s. they have built, are deploying tactical nuke weapons for war fighting purposes. they have very, very set of delivery vehicles that includes aircraft fighter-bombers, that includes various range ballistic missiles and will eventually include a naval platform, a triad if you will. they right now have the fastest
growing fissile material and nuclear weapons program in the whole world. they are probably some place in terms of current stockpile nuclear weapons in the 100-150. best guess in terms of fissile the coproduction is there any the two to 300 weapons which puts them in the range of france and britain and china by the way. pakistan, you are never what pakistan was like i think, don't you? watch homeland for something and you notice and you've been watching that situation in pakistan, which is at times not as stable as we would like. india, if pakistan has recessed returns for 20 years, india has had it for 40. minimum deterrent was their policy. it isn't anymore. this is relatively new for
india. it is not also i would say moving into war fighting. because they are responding to the pakistani program and to the indian program. they want to be able with the ballistic missiles to target indian targets, cities, popular success on the east coast of china. and what it constrained india for decades no longer constrained india, because of what we did. we did a deal with india in which we took india off the list of countries, other countries could do nuclear business with. at me fix that sentence, but you get my point. that we get a deal with india which allows india to
legitimately under the terms of nuclear suppliers group to buy uranium. what was constraining the problem was uranium. it doesn't anymore. they can buy uranium for the nuclear power program and use their indigenous uranium for the nuclear weapons program, thank you, united states of america for doing that for them. and that program is off and running as well. china, we had in the basis i think fair to say marvel at china's restraint for a very long time, since the '60s. they, the chinese, characterized themselves as having nuclear deterrence. i would offer that that's questionable whether they really had the capability to deter the united states of america. i'm not sure that was true. whether it was or not is be on a
historical question because the chinese are no longer there. they are building and modernizing their forces so that the rangers have increased so that they can cover united states. they have gone to concepts of mobility, increased survivability of their forces. they may be -- and clear these to me. and so the chinese program is now much more robust in this decade than it ever was before. such that it even troubles now the russians as well as us. the pièce de résistance to this argument become to russia. as you may have noticed, the russians are tanned, rested, and back. we have georgia, crimea, eastern ukraine, and on any day we have the baltics with the russians.
the russians have noticed from the very beginning actually in the '90s that there are no conventional forces symmetries between them and us. what it used to be with the nato pact and war so used to switch. they do not have conventional forces we do not believe to defend against nato should never get up one morning and decide to invade russia. plus they have some particularly as with the chinese by the way, impressed with our prompt global strike. they been impressed with our continued enthusiasm for various architectures of ballistic missile defense, and they believe it could be circumstances in which either their territory or their forces were threatened by our capability. this has led them come and this is in the open literature, and led them to explore apparently concepts of de-escalation,
de-escalation through the use of nuclear weapons first in the conflict against u.s. forces, allies, assets all around the world including continental united states. if you didn't get fat, that means they would be circumstances in which the russians would believe they can deescalate a confrontation with the united states of america by attacking us first with nuclear weapons. trying to limit the damage of course it would be tactical, they would be concerned about collateral damage but this is new. and massively troubling. and then there's us, and the phrase might be we have met the enemy and they are us. there's us. we are modernizing our strategic nuclear forces. minuteman iii and trident, we
planned a new sbm to replace all how class submarine, replace all heihow class boats. we planned upgrades in both b-52's and b-2's. we planned refurbishment of our warheads, modernization of a warhead manufacturing complex. all this would be consistent with reduction i point out and, indeed, that the administration makes that point, not always interpreted as that by others as you would not be surprised to hear. there is a need we have felt to reassure our allies with the credibility of the extended deterrence, and we've been doing that you may have noticed. we've had to do that in europe. we have had to do in northeast asia. we are continuing our pursuit of the list who missile defense at
the strategic level, at the theater level and that the tactical level, layered defenses of various kinds. notwithstanding what the president has said, the last decade, there will be no s. in ct, there will be no feel banks, and there will be no, i predict unilateral reduction by the united states of america in its forces. so in 2015 midway through this decade issues of credibility deterrence, extended deterrence, stability are all backed the u.s. and russia but also for northeast asia, south asia and for the middle east. and those relationships are mocked by a new complexity greater than what we were familiar with in my horseback ride through history. we have multiple actors in these cases. it's not just two countries. even conceptually that raises all kinds of problems. plus there are new theaters to
worry about. they are cyber, space. where concepts of deterrence are not easily transferable from the nuclear period to we need new concepts. we still need to worry about access to we to windward about unauthorized use, unauthorized launch. we need to worry about terrorism and use of nuclear weapons in terrorism to the improvised nuclear device was made as result of the transfer of fissile material or the leakage unintended transfer. we continue to have to worry about nuclear energy ambiguities. they're still in 2004 they're still enthusiasm for the use of plutonium as a fuel and plutonium recycle. you hear about that very soon when the republic of korea and the united states of america announced the new arrangement for the 123 agreement.
all the system that nuclear weapons are back, salient, and discussions about our security, about the security of other countries, and there is something for almost three about and hope you all have a very nice day. thank you my. [applause] to okay. as we do the q. and a couple of things i would like you all to do. first place to wait for the microphone because again we are recording this and we would like it to be on take. the second thing is pleased to stand when the microphone is brought to you. to state your name and tell us where you are from. we would like to get one question only. i know everybody likes to put the question in context but keep the context short and actually ask a question, that would be great. and then finally, hopefully, your question should relate to tonight's talk. >> hi.
i'm hank gaffney, 20 years in osdp i did want to comment that first of all mcnamara lasted a year on counter attack. when i got into in 1962 he was on to should destruction and that everything which -- secondly, working 13 years on the nuclear weapons i never heard the term extended deterrence. but i wonder in the last 10 years or so. it was a bit cartoonish. we choose sides a good source of history that goes through all of these things? the response by mcnamara was about conventional, it was not in c. 14. it was not about nukes. it was lessened your who got in to that because i knew about. i get deeply involved in this on that subject. so what is a very good source
for all of these histories? >> just ask, beg for consideration on two points. i said this at the beginning. one, when you do things by decades, not precise. so -- [inaudible] >> thank you. so the first is that this is not precise. however, i want to push back the flexible response. he meant just what you said, and that was an appeal candidate to that was part of what the green berets were all about, and that whole period was one in which conventional forces was the focus. i'm going to assert to you and i'm going to go betty go to the blog whose author is a brit, who is at in college, who has done -- cam college, a revision on
nuclear strategy and runs for office, i think you'll find that one could even say the flexible response promptly goes to the conventional, it was used by many to cover the development of counterforce capability as opposed to a response that was understood to be largely counter value to. i don't have the text infamy but i believe that to be true. sound like. >> -- [inaudible] >> okay. all i was is where going to have to stay on unclassified sources. he is about as good as it gets but there are others men off-line made we can talk about that a little more. you had a second point. >> my name is peter. i'm a retired engineer.
you talked about counterforce and counter population and industry and so on, but russia likes deception and other approaches. there are a lot of other playe players. attacked by high altitude -- if you bring a ship in close and launch a missile or two from them. that could be pretty effective if you have no residue or anything to find the source. what's the answer to that? >> i don't know what the answer is. we have been obviously aware of it and its impact, and i'm aware of work that has been done to shield against the consequences,
but i have no expertise to tell you where you are in terms of the ability to deal with bmp. but your athlete greg it is one of -- you are absolutely correct. one can imagine a situation in which you either a combined attack emp as those looking for a kinetic impact, or just and emp result. i'm sure that people are thinking about that but i actually cannot characterize the threat to you, sorry. >> hi. i'm steve garber. as a historic i appreciate your horseback ride through the decades of history. let me ask you. what specific aspects of that history would you draw upon to think about what policy prescriptions would be for dealing with iran right now? >> i think that --
[inaudible] >> the question was good on you for doing history, so how do you make this history relevant to a prescription for dealing with iran. and i would say that we have experienced -- experience with countries that pursue nuclear weapons for more than one kind of the reason. generally, people start with it is for security. and for most countries that have acquired nuclear weapons, that seems to be a good answer. the point is, and the answer to question is, that is just the beginning of the answer of dealing with this case because i have to deal with the security issue and to provide reassurances, nuclear umbrellas, i mean wide web essentially ninth nuclear weapon states in
iran to be the dominant power in the gulf. as a regional power, as a hegemonic power some would say from the arab side. that would a persian hegemony over an arab region. how would that be addressed to the extent that's a driver and then there are domestic considerations. you will see that, i think the profile, domestic considerations when we look at whatever it is offered up to us by the negotiators from iran and the united states. some of what's there is going to be there because of domestic push t will not have a lot to do with iran's security needs. i think we get that from other countries we've dealt with. there was a time that south korea had a secret nuclear weapons program. there was a time when taiwan had a secret nuclear weapons program. there was a time south africa, had a secret nuclear weapons program and in fact built nuclear weapons and disassembled.
we believe there were nuclear weapons programs in brazil and argentina. we've been around and history does inform us and what i'm arguing to you now, one of the things we learn from this simply addressing what looks to us their security need is a great start. very often the motivation is much more complex and even goes down to domestic politics. >> thank you, ambassador. i really enjoyed your talk. >> thank you. >> a couple of days ago i read a report that one of the jihadi sunni groups in syria killed four syrian nuclear engineers, nuclear scientists and an iranian nuclear engineer an nuclear scientist. what do you think they were doing there? not the. gerri: jihadi group, but the
nuclear. >> i actually, you told me something i didn't know. and, b, i probably could make something up if pressed but i think it would draw too heavily on my spy novels and i shouldn't do. that actually, i really don't know, what you're suggesting with that, i will say is the kind of thing we do, i see the intelligence community does, is try to see where people are, who is talking to whom. try to understand what the natural interests are and what countries may be trying to do. this is very, intelligence terms a very tough target. yeah, in the back there. >> hi, thank you, ambassador. kathleen reedy, anthropologist with rand. i wonder if you could elaborate back on the iran topic what you
think a response from saudi arabia and egypt would look like? the proposition out there now is if negotiations fail and there is a nuclear weapons program in iran, notwithstanding iran's assertions they have no interest in nuclear weapons. they just want their rights as a nation part of the npt to develop nuclear cycle with peaceful nuclear equipment. if this turns out not to be true, among the countries that would not be surprised would be saudi arabia an egypt. the saudis have a special relationship with pakistan it is clear.
it is possible that that relationship would facilitate transfer of technology from pack stan to saudi arabia with turn-key. saudis might have instant nuclear weapons. that is one scenario. i know nothing in detail about the relationship and i can't give any texture to that. but that is one model. the egyptian case is tougher i think for ebent. both because of the -- egypt. because of the political situation that the egyptians are currently experiencing because to the best of my knowledge they haven't moved down the fuel cycle route yet to develop their own capability in terms of either the enrichment route or reactor reprocessing route to produce plutonium. so they would be some years away
a decade is a nice round number. the question would be why egypt would do this. egypt is one of those, when one, when one in the arab world looks at iran acquiring nuclear weapons sees iran as potentially a persian and hegemonic entity in their region and there is concern. the saudis are a lot closer. they certainly have no indigenous capability to do this they have some delivery capability if they were to have weapons, not indigenously provided principally by the chinese. so that would be a concern right away. i would say also we would be looking, if we were thinking as you are, about dominos that might fall, the turks, even though a nato member, because geographic location, would be a country to be concerned about and perhaps others.
>> edward levine. retired from the staff of the senate foreign relations committee. 20 years ago you briefed senate committees on the agreed framework with north korea. you did it master any but the -- masterfully but the agreement still came under a lot of fire. if there is an agreement with iran what would you recommend to the obama administration with regard to handling congress? >> hmmm. kevlar. [laughter]. as, as you have undoubtedly observed the agreement is not an
agreement. it is under full attack. it is under attack by those who believe they are friends of israel and the israeli position as understood by many is one that does not tolerate any enrichment capability operating in iran. and that is a tough thing to negotiate with iran. so i don't imagine that these negotiations, if they end successfully from the perspective the negotiators will end with zero enrichment capability. so i can foresee pretty clearly there are going to be critics about that. there will be critics on the hill that will go after, whatever the provisions are that require iran to clarify history. there may be, i don't know what the deal will be in that area. there will be those who will be unhappy with the verification which is going to be very important as to whether there are secret enrichment facilities anywhere else or stockpiles
anywhere else. there is lots of a room for a critic to point out. about a deal, if there is one, similar to agreed framework 20 years ago. 20 years ago, just three weeks ago. it was an anniversary that was very celebrated and very limited way by us. because any deal will be open to criticism because it will not not be perfect. when i was testifying in front of your committee, i said, what will be your plan? when i heard their plan which would get everything we wanted and they would get nothing they wanted. i said next time i buy a car, i ask you to deal the for me and ask you to get it for free. this problem is going to be there. this will not be easy.
it will not be fun. the elections did here what they did in the midterm of the clinton administration. 20 years it was right before the midterms in 1994. if you recall the democrats lost both houses. all those friendly committee chairs i was dealing with were gone and a whole bunch of new committee chairs just couldn't wait to meet me. so, it is going to be hard. >> university of maryland, thank you so much for the presentation. i really enjoyed it. you basically named and talked about all non-western basically, either countries that have nuclear weapons or, suspected of having nuclear weapons program, but except israel. you did not talk about israel and the history of how israel got nuclear weapons and so on. i was wondering first of all why
and secondly, would you elaborate on the role israel could play or would have to play to make, not a nuclear zero but a nuclear weapons-free zone in the middle east? thank you. >> certainly. i usually talk about israel if there is a reason to and, right now find, i invite you to come back and because i will say something i suspect you disagree with. i see the chinese program as, nuclear deterrence program as related to the soviet and soviet related to american, french and british related to the soviet, indian related to chinese, the pac related to indians i saw argue gentine and brazil relate to each other. south africa was always a mystery with me. i've spoken to this and those
who were involved with this i spoken to them and it was still kind of mysterious. be that as it may, the israeli program was not a mystery to me given the attitude of its neighboring states and possibility, and this is probably what that program is most designed to deal with, the possibility that the soviet union would turn out to be a protector of those that were going to be hostile to israel. and as you know israel fought a series of wars in which the soviet union had the potential to be an actor and israelis wanted deterrent. look at ranges for jerichos and you can see where, what they're aiming at. i don't believe the iranian program is driven by the israeli program. in other words, i often, i spent a lot of my professional career in the middle east so i talked about the israeli not here but i
talked about it a lot in the middle east. i don't believe, if israel, try to reduce number of negatives in a sentence. if israel did not have nuclear weapons it is not at all clear to me that would have any impact on what is happening right now with iran. >> any? >> any. except the rhetoric wouldn't be there. rhetorical point couldn't be made. i don't believe the iranians are driven to have nuclear weapons, i do believe by the way that is nuclear weapons program, if i have been obtuse about that, let me clear that up. it doesn't mean that in fact they will build nuclear weapons. it means that they put this particular perhaps in place because they want to have a nuclear weapons program option. okay?
what i'm flying to do here, take away the take away israeli program it would not in my view have material impact on what has happened with iran. i don't believe iran fears for its security from israel. all right? i just don't but we can argue about that maybe off-line. the israeli program, i have had to do, i believe fundamentally, it is, with its security. i don't think it was or is, willing to accept simple extended deterrents with its relationship with the united states. its relationship with the united states is security relationship and not formal ally but we referred to it in different administrations as an ally in the middle east. the program i don't, i don't know the exact size but the open literature characterizes it as being substantial, involving thermonuclear as well as vision weapons. in delivery systems that now
have gone to sea, as well as aircraft and ballistic missiles. so it's a substantial program. >> hi. my name is rick -- and i guess you would be a follower of professor khan which is who says, ishould say, that nuclear-related issues now are more regional than they are simply a bipolar world and has that technology spread, so has the weapons behind it. my question though is with iran, she has neighbors, both to the east and supposedly to the west. pakistan's nuclear program was primarily funded through saudi arabia. so there is a lot of speculation out in the, i will simply say, there is a lot of speculation out in the open source
literature that they already have them. >> excuse me, the saudis already have them. >> the saudis already have nuclear weapons program because they funded it. assuming they have cannons to the left of them and cannons to the right, it would make sense for iran to go after nuclear weapons to go ahead and seize up its security among other things. and be that regional state as far as hegemonic. the question royals down to really considering what is going on in the middle east right now, do you think the a.q. khan network in pakistan was truly taken down after that because it seems to be popping right back up al over again? >> i think i assume everybody knows what the a.q. khan network was or maybe still is. i don't even know whether a.q. khan is still under house arrest or he is not.
he did, he was the father of pakistani nuclear weapons program initially. just the enrichment part of that program. he worked in the dutch program, the the program with the dutch, british and germans, left and took with them designs to the centrifuge and was the, was the sort of project manager for uranium enrichment secretly in pakistan. ed mid the network comes because he was responsible for large transfers of nuclear centrifuges and nuclear designs we are certain of as well, and we think to iran, to north korea, to libya and perhaps elsewhere, the proposition here is that saudi arabia. sounds to me i know less about
the saudi pak connection than you do. i couldn't say you're wrong. i just don't know it. >> [inaudible] >> his comment was it is in the open source. which means it might well be true. so i don't know whether that network still lives on and is still active. it is one of the scarier things to all of us because we're so worried about pakistan. you have heard from more than one president that pakistan is in a sense the most dangerous country in the world for us. not that the government is out to get the united states of america but because the situation overall in pakistan is pakistan has vulnerabilities in terms of its stability because pakistan and hosts those of most radical interpreters of islam
because they have been attacks on facilities that are government facilities which leads us to be concerned about that very fast-growing nuclear weapons program, the fissile material program in pakistan but what exactly is still going on with pakistan with respect to transfer. i would like to make the distinction if you're in nuclear terrorism world between transfer and leakage. in pakistani case the khan network is real transfer of the they intended that. leakage is what may happen out of russia. i don't think the russian government will either transfer or nuclear weapons or nuclear material. because the complex is so large and so much material relative to other places we worry about unauthorized access to this material. fetching green hat. >> anna lynn from hopkins. going back to egypt, saudi arabia, israel and what
else is on the table, can you foresee israel shea sharing technology with neighboring countries in case iran gets nuclear weapons? >> the question as i understand it can understand, if iran gets nuclear weapons, notwithstanding best efforts would israel share its nuclear weapons technology, materiel with its arab neighbors? i find that extremely unlikely. no, i don't think it is would. there were good stories. and i can't go much beyond that is israel south africa, at a time ago, famous flash in the south atlantic and possibility that the south africans at the time and israelis could test a
nuclear weapon or component of a nuclear weapon in the atmosphere. that is the only sharing that i know of i don't even know that that has happened and has been in the open literature and qualifies as something that may be true but i find the idea that israel would help its arab neighbors acquire nuclear weapons to be hard to impossible to imagine, for me. >> ambassador, thank you for being here. >> thank you. >> i'm juan perrone from harvard and you talked earlier about the soviets having this idea that they could limit the nuclear threat from america by making a county force attack on us. -- county force attack.
>> not exactly. the russians believe they could get into a situation where asymmetric advantage united states has to ability to protect force, conventional force, leave them in a situation not being able to defend either their territory or their forces in a circumstance that would put them in dire straits and that rather than seeing that situation escalate to either have that loss to the united states or have it escalate to the strategic nuclear level they would use tactical nuclear weapons in a mode designed to limit collateral damage, and de-escalate the crisis by demonstrating their seriousness. >> resolve. >> resolve, indeed, much better word. >> the hiccup comes in with your close personal friend, who has always argued that a counterforce attack on the united states would be responded
to by counterforce attack from the united states. so therein he never accepted the idea that there are empty silos would now be attacked by us. he accepted that was the only option. and i only address this in the sense of iran and israel. israel has a very suspect capability to do any damage in counterforce to the iranians. but israel has a genuine possibility to be a deterrent threat, have a deterrent threat of county value. -- counter value, it would be sweet to see them publish that and identify which downtown shopping areas would be destroyed once an attack on israel, which any attack on israel would be counter value. >> you have unintentionally confused me massively now. don't sit down yet. police, hold on to the mic.
here is what, first of all, i have, strategists i think generally, at which i'm not one but i do read them, reserved the phrase, counterforce for a strategic strike. so i have not been talking about a russian counterforce attack on america. i've been talking about a demonstration detonation. perhaps a limited attack on u.s. forces where they're not going to have an impact on surrounding territory or population. maybe something even in kind of the united states. this is very scary stuff, mostly for me because it completely misreads my perspective. the likely american response to any use of nuclear weapons against us, united states of america, our allies, our territory, our forces, anything, that if they honestly believe
they can de-escalate a crisis by attacking us with nuclear weapons we're all in a lot of trouble because i don't -- we've been misread before by countries about our, use your word, resolve. so this would be a big, horrible mistake on their part. if we were talking counterforce and what would happen in a counterforce against an attack on the united states, i hope and pray it will never happen, but if it happens our retaliation would go completely counterforce and completely aimed at war termination. completely aimed at shutting down the conflict. i think, one of the things about the nuclear weapons being back, which i haven't dwelled upon, is, remember i'm teaching now at georgetown and graduate students this semester and undergraduates next messer. everything -- semester. anything many of us around this
room know about what nuclear weapons do has been lost. these kids kids have not gone under their desks in grammar school. i did. so i, so i worry a great deal that we have, a lot of people in this country don't understand the magnitude of the destruction we're talking about. so i, i am, the idea of doing anything other than counterforce, anything other than striking back in a way that aims at disables and ending the conflict is so reprehensible to me that i can't begin to express it. >> unfortunately we have the same idea. i was chief of european forces a quarter century ago and one of the concepts was that we need to select, know what kind of shape our conventional forces were in so that they understood that our only viable response to the
soviets might very well quickly include nuclear tactical weapons. and we had a series of step-downs. that has been released that information. i'm worried about carnasali and influence he has across the world and i was soviet reading his statements, his comments, your close personal friend, if there is counterforce attack we'll reply, counterforce sufficient. he never stepped off that. a counterforce anywhere including tactical situation would be responded for tit-for-tat. that got us into war fighting this was the concept of war fighting with nuclear weapons. >> so something i should throw into this conversation for everybody. my, my thesis advisor and professor when i was a graduate student, graduate school was one of the great theorists of international relations maybe known to some of you in that field, keneth walls.
wrote, man, state and war and number of other things. he wrote most pieces on topics we were talking about. the one best known titled, more may be better. and we actually, if you can imagine how uncomfortable it was me debating him. he actually believed the slow spread, the slow spread of nuclear weapons was good for international stability. that nuclear weapons are chilling to everybody, even crazy people who run countries understand about nuclear weapons, you can't win if they start being used. and so it actually will stablize. the last thing he wrote before he died was a piece in foreign affairs about why iran getting nuclear weapons would be a good thing for the middle east. so there are other views. there are views here that i have, don't have any sympathy for but there are views that
for how deterrence is going to work? >> it's important, but i don't think it's the way deterrence is going to work. i mean, it's important because when i said a while ago that think in terms of two orders of magnitude, a hundred times more damaging and, actually, it could be more depending on the size of the thermonuclear weapon. the amount of death and destruction is massively different. and if when we say tactical nuclear weapons what we usually mean is something about the range of the delivery system and the yield of the weapon. it doesn't mean it can't be a thermonuclear weapon, in other words, be our boosted fission weapon, it could be one of these things and still be tactical because you don't have to design the thermonuclear weapon so that it produces megaton yields,
obviously. so this all may get lost, and i don't think this is an important thing for you to focus on when you think about deterrence in the way we've been talking about it. it is important, though, and this is my last argument for security of nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons technology. there was a time, and i believe the year was 1979 when i was, as they say, mining my own -- minding my own business working at the department of state, and i was approached by general counsel and some funny looking people from los alamos labs about an article that was going to be published by howard motherland in the progressive -- moreland in the progress i magazine. and the question was should the united states attempt prior restraint publication? someone who believes he has good
civil liberties chops, my instinct was absolutely not. and then i looked at what was going to be published. at that time we had what we called tickets, right? and for the queue and all kinds of stuff that goes along with nuclear weapons stuff. i thought i had -- i would not have had clearance for this kind of stuff in thermonuclear weapons, and it was going to come out in the magazine. and we knew how long it took the french from fission to fusion and the chinese and russians. and there we -- and we knew these other countries were out there. this was enormously important. by the way, as you may know, it was published, and the secret as it was said conceptually of thermonuclear weapons was put out in the literature. to what effect, i don't know, maybe it would have done damage on that, i don't know. but whenever i hear that a country, and it's happened a few times, has claimed that it has
successfully detonated a thermonuclear weapon and then we also read that our judgment is, nah, not really. i'm happy about that. this is a sense, this is a long way of telling you that because the level of destruction can be so much more damaging with thermonuclear weapons, the difference makes a difference. but in the terms we've been talking about here, the terms of deterrence theory, credibility of a deterrent and all that, i would say not much. not much. thank you all very much. [applause] >> live now to the national press club for remarks by the chair of the nuclear regulatory commission, allison macfarlane, on safety at nuclear power plants. live coverage here on c-span2. [applause] >> good afternoon. welcome. thank you for the kind
introduction, i guess. [laughter] so i appreciate the invitation to be here and talk with you today and reflect on some of the issues that the nuclear regulatory commission has on its plate and talk about some of my accomplishments during my tenure at the nrc and some of the challenges we faced as well. but before i go on, i just want to acknowledge some of the folks in the audience. we have, i'm really glad that commissioner ostendorf could join us as well as our cfo, maureen wiley, and my chief of staff as well. we have a couple to nrc tables, i think there are three at least, there, there and there, and i want to acknowledge those two in particular because they are my current and former staff. so thank you for coming. and we also have assistant secretary pete lyons, i believe, somewhere in the room. there he is.
and as well as the president and ceo of nei, marv frattell. i don't know where marv went, but we have all of these folks. so, first, let me review some of our accomplishments, and then i'll take a little while to look at upcoming issues for the commission. let me start with my first impressions. when i first came to the nrc in 2012, i was eager to work with my colleagues, but i was unsure of what i would face. the agency was going through a tumultuous time in which relationships within the commission and between the commission and the staff were strained. it had also billion just over a year -- been just over a year since the fukushima accident, and the staff was looking ahead with pertinent lessons learned for the u.s. industry. in addition, just weeks before my arrival the d.c. circuit court of appeals vacated and
remanded a major rule on spent fuel storage at reactor sites known then as the waste confidence rule which would require nrc to undertake a substantial rulemaking and suspend certain licensing actions. i should also mention that at that time the federal government as a whole was in the context of sequestration experiencing budget challenges. in short, i i knew i was walking into an environment where there were, was a lot of work to do and limited resources with which to do it. i also had my own priorities and objectives in my mind as i began my tenure, and i wanted to use the benefit of my knowledge and my prior experience to enhance and strengthen the important work at the nrc. for my time on the blue ribbon commission on america's nuclear future which set a new strategy for dealing with the country's nuclear waste, i had seen the benefit of effective public
engagement. i was determined to approach my chairmanship with a commitment to openness and transparency. as a nuclear waste expert, i had long believed that the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle -- everything that occurs once spent fuel is removed from a reactor vessel -- does not receive the attention and respect it deserves. and as an academic, i intended to champion a broad-minded, inclusive approach in the agency's decision making. from my first day on the job, the nrc staff impressed me with their skill, commitment to the issue and their sense of community. after visiting my first few reab to haves, i was impressed by the role at the facilities we regulate. i take great pride in the tremendous work the nrc staff has accomplished in two and a half years. so now let me turn to some of the topics i want to cover. fukushima. in the first few months of my
tenure as chairman, i had the opportunity to travel to fukushima and see firsthand the devastation wrought by a nuclear reactor accident. traveling through deserted villages with weeds overtaking parking lots and thick layers of dust settling on artifacts of hastily-abandoned lives, i came to better understand the societal costs of nuclear reactor accidents. the site itself emphasized this lesson even more strongly with debris from hydrogen explosions still littering the ground. as a result, i felt compelled to push for changes at u.s. plants based on the lessons we learned from that accident. given all that, i'm pleased with the progress the nrc and the industry have made in implementing post-fukushima safety enhancements. our inspectors are working hard to confirm that plants meet their obligations under nrc orders requiring them to insure that reactors can cope with the prolonged loss of off-site power, accurately measure spent
fuel -- sorry, accurately measure water level in spent fuel pools and successfully operate containment vents during emergency conditions. plants have been acquiring additional equipment such as diesel generators, pumps, cabling and piping, staging it in earthquake-proof and tornado-proof buildings at various locations around their reactor sites. for instance, the plant in tennessee has completed its response to our mitigating strategies order and awaits our review. this year two industry response centers opened their doors. the industry's objective is to be able to provide emergency equipment to a stricken reactor within 24 hours. many plants have already put into place instrumentation that measures water levels and spent fuel pools, and they're working on installing containment vents that will be operable under high pressures, temperatures and radiation fields that would exist during an accident.
the nrc staff has also made significant progress in reviewing licensees, flooding and seismic hazard reevaluations and is working through two significant rule makings on mitigating hazards and determining filtration strategies at boiling water reactors. now let me talk a little bit about the back end of the fuel cycle. the staff completed the continued storage rule, formerly known as waste confidence, and an accompanying generic environmental impact statement, the work prompted by the appeals court ruling that i mentioned earlier in just two years undeterred by a government shutdown. of particular significance to me, this rulemaking maximized public engagement. the staff conducted 13 meetings in ten states and received more than 33,000 public comments, each of which was reviewed and considered. i believe the successful process should now be a model for how
the agency conducts future high-profile rulemaking. to those of you who track such things, you'll recall that i only gave partial approval in my own vote. i was concerned that the staff had not adequately explored what would happen in the event of a potential loss of what is called institutional controls; that is, a future where no one is responsible for insuring that the waste remains in a safe condition indefinitely. i feel strongly that we as a nation not use the insurance of safe interim, high-level waste storage as an excuse to not make progress in developing a permanent repository for this material. we must invigorate our focus on the permanent disposal of spent fuel. in terms of the back end, i should also mention yucca mountain or, i imagine, you will. [laughter] as many of you know, in august 2013 the d.c. circuit court of appeals ordered the nrc to
resume review of the yucca mountain license application using its remaining nuclear waste fund money which amounted to about $13 million. while we acted to resume work on yucca mountain in a tombly and transparent way -- timely and transparent way, the work we're doing now represents only part of a lengthy and complicated licensing process which is currently not near completion. at the time, the staff's yucca mountain work was suspended in 2010, there were more than 300 contentions challenging the application. the safety evaluation report and the environmental impact statement that will be coming out in 2015 may trigger additional contentions. hearings must be conducted on each contention and must be resolved by the licensing board before the nrc's review can be considered complete. only then would the commission make a final licensing decision. i want to emphasize that the department of energy and the
administration have been clear that they're not currently pursuing a license application for yucca mountain, and congress has not provided them resources to do so. without a willing applicant, the nrc cannot pursue the remaining portion of the licensing process. in the area of permanent high-level waste disposal or any of the other technical areas i've just discussed, i think there's a lot to learn from the international community. the nrc engages in significant international work from collaboration with partner regulators to assistance to newcomer countries. i view all of this work as essential, as it provides the nrc an opportunity to learn from others and helps us insure nuclear safety and security practices are followed worldwide. i've advocated strongly for the nrc's continued international engagement by maintaining close relations with my counterparts at regulatory agencies around the world. the nrc works closely with the
international atomic energy agency which has enabled us to engage in multilateral and regional regulatory development assistance and advance our bilateral relationships with developing countries. i also chaired what's called -- it's a mouthful -- the multi-national design evaluation program which oversees a framework of regulatory collaboration on new reactor designs. through this program regulators around the world who are or may soon be licensing and overseeing new reactor construction are leveraging resources and addressing common issues like vendor oversight, quality assurance and digital instrumentation and control. one important theme in my discussions with my international counterparts is regulatory independence. it's essential that regulatory decisions in any country are taken without undue political pressure or industry influence. i've been fiercely protective of the nrc's independence, but i
also recognize that it doesn't equate to isolation. that's why i've pushed for us to be more engaged with the executive branch agencies that also deal with nuclear issues; in particular, the department of energy and the state department. i've established productive and cooperative working relationships with my u.s. government counterparts. i meet regularly with them to discuss areas of mutual interest and participate in various interagency activities. for example, i chair an interagency task force on radioactive source security. i also helped found and chair a forum of independent and executive branch regulators who share lessons learned on cybersecurity issues that affect the industries they regulate. these activities have enabled me to raise awareness across the government of who we at the nrc are, what we do and why it's so important. it's equally important for the public to be, to have this kind
of awareness. i've been a strong proponent of nrc's public engagement, and i'm proud of the progress that we've made. we've established a requirement that the staff report uniformly on public meetings, we've asked the staff to provide training for employees who regularly engage with the public, and we also require profession alpha sillation for some of your -- professional facilitation for some of our public meetings. for the nrc to be an effective regulator, i believe public trust is essential. in many cases, the nrc achieved that trust, but in some cases i think we have to work harder. for example, when i came to nrc, public hearings around the nuclear power plant had the potential to become highly contentious, and it was clear that significant portions of the public didn't trust the nrc. i'm happy to say that we've turned that situation around and have had many successful meetings in southern california. public engagement is equally
important, i believe, for industry. having an effective relationship with the local community around a nuclear power plant is essential in both everyday and especially emergency conditions. in my discussions with industry, both formal and informal, i've encouraged them to keep an active dialogue with local government and public interest groups, and some of them have risen very well to this challenge. one other aspect of maintaining public trust, in my view, is the assurance that an agency is operating efficiently, using its resources wisely and prioritizing its work appropriately. in the past few years, the commission and senior management have had to confront the fact that the future of the nrc is facing is different from what was previously anticipated. the producted nuclear renaissance did not materialize in the united states, and unplanned work resulting largely from fukushima and waste confidence resulted in resource limitations that had a real impact on the staff's ability to manage its ongoing workload.
sequestration, the government shutdown and the decision to decommission several reactors before the end of their licensed lives also impacted the nrc during my ten your. in response to this situation, the commission directed the staff to work to insure that the nrc is best positioned to continue its important safety and security mission in the coming years regardless of what the future holds. the staff is currently addressing this issue. so now let me turn to give you my perspectives on what lies ahead at the nrc. i'd like to address fukushima, operating reactor performance, new reactors, decommissioning the back end of the fuel cycle and the nrc's role internationally, and i'll be brief. so let me start with fukushima. all told, the post-fukushima safety enhancements have required tremendous effort and resources from both the nrc and the industry. much has been done, but our joint challenge is now to keep up the momentum, maintain our
commitment and insure that the lessons of talk about sea many -- fukushima are me moralized in a sustainable way in our day-to-day work. the agency needs to continue to work through the remaining recommendations that the near term task force provided. the tier ii and tier iii priorities include important topics such as consideration of hydrogen mitigation and control during an accident, the need to periodically review external hazards as more is learned about these processes over time and the consideration of potentialen hasn'tments -- potential enhancements to reactor designs that are different from the mark i and mark ii boiling water reactors that are already being dealt with. i believe that complacency is always a threat, and the only way to avoid it is to keep the lessons learned from this tragic accident alive in our nuclear safety practices. i also believe we need to continue to focus on nuclear power plant performance. though the majority of nuclear power plants in the united
states are performing well, we're seeing a few areas of concern. some of the lowest performing plants in the u.s., for example, seem to remain in that category for an extended periods of time rather than addressing the issues quickly to regain the higher performance status. in my time at the nrc visiting plants and observing performance, i've learned the value of good management. poor management is easy to spot from lack of safety culture and other persistent problems at plants. i bereave that solid -- i believe that solid leadership from the top and not just attention to the bottom lewin is necessary to -- bottom line is necessary to insure consistent plant performance. in this regard, i'm confident that the combination of a rigorously-implemented reactor oversight process, a highly qualified work force and committed resident inspectors are protective. still, our objective must always be to prevent problems. in this regard, the industry's self-regulator -- the institute for nuclear power operations -- maintains a strong commitment to
safety across the u.s. fleet. inpo, which is how most of us talk about it, formed after three mile island accident and plays a critical role in fostering effective communication of best practices and lessons learned across the industry. the staff and the industry are also incorporating post-fukushima insights into the new reactor construction projects currently underway at vogel in georgia, vc summer in south carolina and watts bar in tennessee. i've had the opportunity to see the progress at both vogel and watts bar firsthand, and i can attest to the safety consciousness i observed in both the nrc's construction inspectors and the engineers who are building these large, complex machines. one challenge we've encountered is that nuclear reactors haven't been constructed in the united states for quite some time. as a result, today's component manufacturers have had to adjust their safety culture practices
to accommodate the rigorous, often unique requirements presented by nuclear construction. some parts of the industry continue to struggle with these issues. i believe industry has an essential responsibility in insuring quality control, oversight of vendors and in preventing counterfeit and fraudulent parts from entering the supply chain. this concern, of course, is not unique to the u.s. or to the nuclear industry, and both the nrc and industry have engaged with foreign counterparts to champion strict adherence to quality control standards. as these reactors are being constructed, others have closed and begun decommissioning, as i mentioned. currently, plants follow operator reactor regulations during decommissioning. that means they may request exemptions from certain requirements that may no longer be necessary once fuel is removed from the reactor core.
while i believe these regulations provide a robust framework for the nrc's operating reactor oversight, i question whether exemptions remain appropriate at a time when multiple plants have entered the decommissioning process. i believe it's time for the nrc to develop regulations specific to the decommissioning of nuclear power plants. and to structure public expectations of the process. as i noted earlier, i've long believed that an integrated approach to the nuclear fuel cycle with sufficient emphasis on the back end is essential in working with all forms of nuclear numbering. in this con -- energy. in this context, some of my most important efforts have been directed towards bringing greater focus to matters such as on-site spent nuclear fuel storage and spent nuclear fuel transportation and disposal. as an independent regulator, the nrc doesn't make energy policy
for the nation, but nonetheless, we're impacted significantly by decisions of our energy policymakers. as the administration and congress continue to grapple with the path forward for nuclear waste management and disposal in the united states, the nrc must, in turn, continue to insure that radioactive waste can be stored safely at nuclear reactor sites until permanent disposal options become available. this raises a number of issues of particular significance to me. it's important to mention that fuel is typically designed to maximize performance in the reactor, not in a repository. considerations on the front end don't always account for how fuel may behave decades after its use. another issue is spent fuel transportation. fuel that's been removed from pools and placed in dry casks may need to be repackaged before its ultimate disposal to account for the design of the disposal
site or damaged fuel or heat considerations. research on the long-term spent fuel integrity currently underway in the u.s. and elsewhere will be critical to protecting public health and safety. i also note that an integrated approach to the nuclear fuel cycle means we have to address the reality that, as the blue ribbon commission concluded, current and projected spent fuel inventories will require more than one repository. in addition, the administration is now exploring the potential for deep geologic bore holes for high level waste placement. since our current siting standards are specific to yucca mountain, i believe it's appropriate and necessary to begin a rulemaking to address a generic standard. as we continue to learn from other countries' experiences with nuclear waste disposal, new countries are just beginning to consider nuclear power or nuclear applications. i believe that the assistance
the nrc provides to these countries to develop their regulatory infrastructure will remain critically important. nuclear power is viewed in some of these countries as a source of prestige and often a fledgling regulator has trouble keeping up with its government's ambitious construction plans. in particular, i'm concerned about nations that seek nuclear power capabilities without building the necessary indigenous expertise and regulatory infrastructure to unsure that construction and operations -- insure that construction and operations are performed both safely and securely. heightening my concern is that some companies are marketing a build, own, operate approach in which a country needs only provide financing, and a foreign entity constructs and operates a nuclear reactor. this option has proven attractive for nations that are wishing to fast track their nuclear energy development. but i firmly believe that nuclear power operations must be
paired with effective safety oversight and accountability by committed and highly trained regulators. so what's next for me? beginning january 1st i'll be a professor of public policy at the elliot school of international affairs and director of the center for international science and technology policy, as you heard. universities typically bring on new faculty twice during a year which is once in january, once in july which is why i've chosen to live the nrc at this particular moment. in my new position, i'll have the opportunity to continue research and writing, teaching as well and to train a new cadre of policy experts. my experience at the nrc will certainly inform my vision for the center. in particular, i've come to better understand the essential role that regulatory perspectives play in policy making. i also appreciate the interrelation between nuclear safety and often more
frequently-discussed security and safeguards issues and the need to treat the three holistically. it's been an honor and a pleasure to serve my country as chairman of the nrc for the past two and a half years. i'm grateful to president obama for nominating me, and i appreciate the talented and hard working staff at the nrc more than i can say. i'm confident that as i leave and after i leave the nrc will maintain its well deserved reputation as one of the best agencies in the federal government. i'm confident that the commission will continue to function effectively after my departure, and i wish my colleagues all the best. their work, together with our dedicated staff, will enable the nrc to remain an effective, independent and trusted regulator. and i greatly appreciate the opportunity to speak with you all today, and i'm happy now to answer your questions. thank you. [applause]
>> thank you so much, professor macfarlane. dueck -- do you think the united states nuclear energy industry will ever recover from fukushima and start growing again? what will make that happen? >> well, i think that i would separate that out. i wouldn't say that the nuclear industry is suffering necessarily because of fukushima. i think there are larger issues at play here, mostly economic issues. what would help that would probably be some price on carbon. my view. >> most u.s. nuclear facilities are more than 40 years old, and most want to extend their lives to 60 or even 80 years. how much confidence do you have that they can be extended to that extent and still operate safely? >> well, we've extended the
licensed life of 74 reactors to 60 years, so -- already. so that's in progress, and we've seen a number of reactors go beyond their 40-year life. they have aging management programs in place, and we regulate that closely. the issue of going from 60 to 80 years is an issue that is under consideration at the nrc now, and you'll have to ask my colleagues in the future where they're going with that. so -- >> you've said a new rule is needed for firming up rules for closing reactors. does that effort have any chance of moving forward in your absence? >> i certainly hope so. [laughter] >> how much confidence do you have in your foreign counterparts that they are main taping the highest possible --
maintaining the highest possible standards for their nuclear plants? >> well, that's a broad question. you know, i have a lot of confidence in many of my foreign counterparts. as i said in my speech, we work very closely together in a number of different fora, and there are some great regulators out there that are operating very safely. there are others that need to probably improve a bit, and, you know, there are more and more efforts in place these days to help them do that. there is something called the world association of nuclear operators. it's on the industry side. and it is stepping up its game a lot since the fukushima accident to bring everybody along. and there are a lot of active discussions within the international atomic energy agency on how to improve as well. but we are really working hard at the nrc to try to insure that we have a big reach out there,
too, and we help other countries that need the help. >> what effect do you think the china/u.s. agreement on climate change will have on the nuclear power industry? >> i'm going to pass on that one. i don't know. >> what role should a carbon tax play in a clean energy future? >> well, this is my view, but i think a carbon tax would be very helpful in readjusting the situation for all those kinds of electricity producers and not. you have the transportation side as well. to go forward, those who don't produce carbon, it will give them a boost. and that includes the nuclear industry. >> you talk about the fire and explosion at the wipp, and for
those of you either here or out in the c-span audience, wipp stands for waste isolation pilot plan. so can you talk about the fire and explosion at the wipp facility in new mexico in february of 2013? and what this means for the nrc's knowledge about and process for licensing storage facilities. >> well, i want to be clear that the nrc does not regulate wipp. okay? we didn't have a piece of that. and i don't want to say much about the fire and then the subsequent explosion or whatever it was, conflagration at wipp because, again, it's not an area of my expertise. there's some d. of energy folks -- department of energy folks here, you can try to corner them later. sorry, pete. [laughter] and dave. [laughter] but i think there are lessons to
be learned from wipp that are very important for us, not just the department of energy, but for the nrc to learn and to examine. and i think need to wait a little bit until more analysis is done on exactly what happened, but we need to learn a number of lessons on how what best practices should be followed in disposing of waste. it can be disposed of safely, but i think we need to take a step back and see what we learn. >> what lessons can be learned from the safety issues that the nrc has worked through with the fort calhoun plant in omaha, and what is the future of nrc oversight of that facility? >> well, we're still continuing our oversight of fort calhoun and continuing to work hard
there. we've put in a lot of hours there and to insure that they are going to be operating safely. they're operating now, and we are continuing our oversight, and we will reduce our oversight once they have shown us that they are ready for that. and that's how we'll go forward with it. >> you have opposed the yucca mountain site but support geological storage in generalment what bothered you about yucca mountain? >> you know, i have not looked in detail at yucca mountain since 2003 or so. i have not read the yucca mountain license application, i have not read a number of the nrc reports on yucca mountain, so i don't have a view on yucca mountain right now. you know, that was work i did long ago, and i right now don't
have a view on it. >> well, this is a question that you might have just answered, but to be fair to the person who sent it in, what would you say to the new senate leadership if it makes a move to revive the yucca mountain site? >> i think yucca mountain is not just a technical issue, clearly. it's clearly a political and societal issue, and those pieces need to be resolved. for any repository. clearly, the societal and political side has to be resolved as well as the technical side. >> one last question on yucca mountain. an nrc report issued in october said yucca mountain is safe. the commission recently voted to support continued long-term storage of nuclear waste at reactors. you had a problem with that. may i ask why? >> well, i basically answered that in my -- can i see that
question again? it seems to be tying together two separate things. it's tying together yucca mountain and the continued storage rule which i view as totally separate. yes, the nrc issued volume iii of the safety evaluation report in october. it has not issued some of the other volumes yet, so it has not issued a complete safety evaluation report. but we'll be doing that by january as we promised. on the continued storage rule, yes, i had a problem with part of it, and as i said in my speech, it had to do with the fact that i thought that we should account for indefinitely storing these materials, the environmental impacts of that if there are not some kind of institutional measures in place
in perpetuity to make sure the stuff remains safe, this material remains safe. so that was one of my problems. >> thank you. how long could a licensing process actually take for a new, permanent geological storage site, and where should it be? [laughter] >> you know, ever since i started talking about nuclear waste disposal in 1996, everybody says where should you put it. i don't know. you know, we're blessed in this country, we have an enormous country. lots of potential sites. so the first part of the question? sorry. i keeping keep asking you to go. how long could the process take. you know, who knows? [laughter] i leave that up to you. you're probably more expert on that than me. >> what happens to money in the nuclear waste fund that has been collected from american electricity consumers?
>> it's still in the nuclear waste fund. congress has that. so i suggest you ask congress. >> why did you and the nrc take the lead role on the federal government's interagency cybersecurity forum? >> well, we have a lot of experience regulating cybersecurity issues. we've billion working -- we've -- we've been working, we've had regulations in place on cybersecurity since 2009, and we've actually been dealing with this issue since the early 2000s, 2003, 2004. so we have probably amongst other government regulatory agencies and executive branch regulators, amongst the most experienced on this issue. so it seemed natural for us to take the lead. >> what role does that effort play into your efforts to boost nuclear facility safety and security?
>> well, it's important for nuclear facilities and nuclear reactors to be protected from all the kinds of hacks that you read about. i'm sure you all read the paper today seeing how you are press people, and you read about the state department's recent troubles. we don't want that kind of thing happening at a nuclear reactor or a nuclear facility where there are grave implications. and so that's what we are trying to be protect i of. protective of. >> some of the largest owners of nuclear plants are seeking millions of dollars in subsidies from electricity consumers in states such as illinois, ohio and new york to continue operating their plants. do you support such subsidies, and if so, why? >> we regulate nuclear power
reactors, materials. we don't get into the pricing plans, etc. so we don't handle that bit. that's for the state public utility commissions. what didn't you get done during your tenure as nrc chairman? >> ah, that's -- i don't know where to start. [laughter] i'm, i've been ambitious. i would have liked to have seen more done with the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle. i think there's a lot more work to be done there to make that front and center in people's minds. that's one piece of it. i'd like to see more done with public engagement as well. so those are some areas. but i think we've overall accomplished quite a lot in two and a half years, so i think we have a lot to be proud of.
>> what are the biggest challenges that your successor at the nrc will face? >> well, as i said, the agency's not facing the future that five years ago people envisioned. five years ago, seven years ago the nuclear industry was really expecting to expand, and that's what the information we were getting from them. we expanded as well. to prepare for license applications. and that started to fall apart and, you know, as the recession hit, a number of other factors came into play. and so we have to insure that we have the right agency for the times. that means we need to have the right skill sets, the right resources and manage them appropriately, and that's what we're in the process of figuring out. so the next chairman will have to continue making sure that that process gets complete and that the agency is really well
equipped to deal with the future. >> and following on, what advice would you give to your replacement? >> get a topnotch staff. [laughter] you can't do anything without a topnotch staff, because you have way too much to do. [laughter] so, and to rely a lot on the staff at the nrc overall. the staff are fantastic. they're, they have a world of experience, and they're the ones who'll help you get things dope. get things done. >> did the white house influence your decision to step down? >> absolutely not. you can ask them, they were probably as surprised as everybody else. >> what do you think regulations specific to decommissioning reactors should look like? what do you think should be
changed? >> well, i think there are a number of issues that need to be dealt with. first of all, as i said, reactors that are decommissioning are regulated under operating reactor regulations. now, when you take spent fuel out of the core of the reactor, you don't really need to have a guard force surrounding that core. you need to adjust the security, you may need to adjust the emergency planning rules. so i think those issues are sort of first and foremost. and that's where we're getting a lot of exemption requests from the plants that are currently decommissioning. i think there's a discussion about the post-shutdown activities, ps -- post shutdown decommissioning report, psdar. i've been trying to get away from acronyms. that's another piece of advice for the next chairman, get rid
of the acronyms. [laughter] this report is something that the power plants provide us, but we don't have any teeth to approve it or disapprove it, and i think this is something we should consider, whether we need that or not. i think there are a number of issues out there that we need to think about and consider going forward. >> some people think that building small modular reactors are the future. does this technology pose any advantages for licensing them? >> well, we'll see when we get some license applications. we're in the process of waiting for license applications. it sounds like the first ones will come in 2016 but, again, we'll see. we had been expecting license applications this past year, and the industry walked back a bit on that. so we'll see what happens. i think there's promise in small modular reactors but, again, you know, the proof is in the pudding, and i'll let these guys work through the details.
and they'll find out if there are issues or not. >> a lot of questions about licensing. as a variety of advanced nuclear reactor designs receive venture capital support as well as press coverage, how will the nrc support the improvement of the licensing process for these designs which may not fit into the current formula? rather, into the current framework. >> formula, framework. i think the question refers to generation for designs. nonrightwater designs. nonlightwater designs. and i think we are prepared to deal with those, but i don't see any coming anytime soon. again, the small modular reactor license applications, which are much closer to completion, are still not on our plate.
and i don't expect these advance designs will be on the nrc's plate for many years. but as we, working with the industry, understand that they're getting closer, the nrc will, of course, respond and be prepared to deal with them. >> what, if anything, can the nrc do to help low performing plants move out of heightened oversight? >> well, we're working closely with low performing plants, and, you know, providing them a lot of feedback. again, i think this is something that the institute for nuclear power operations is focusing on as well, because they also don't want to see plants stuck at the low performing level for years and years and years. so we're working together to try to improve that. >> is the nrc staff ready to
evaluate new technology like reactors cooled by sodium or lead? >> we just had that question on advanced reactors. so -- >> right. same -- >> same answer, yes. go ahead. >> there ways to safely reduce the costs of generating a nuclear plant to make them more competitive with natural gas and wind power? >> again, i regulate the plants, i don't construct them or design them or build them. and i leave it to those people who are expert in that to answer that kind of question. >> as a geologist, do you think fracking is safe, and why or haunt? [laughter] why or why not? >> well -- >> let me give you a related question so you can maybe -- >> all right. >> -- knit it all together. how has the fracking boom
affected the nuclear power industry? >> well, i'll take the latter one first. i think, you know, i think a number of factors have affected the nuclear power industry economically. this is just my point of view, but i think that, first of all, the dem cardiovascular shift -- demographic shift from the north to the south and west that has been occurring for more than ten years has reduced demand in the midwest and northern part of the country. the 2008 recession, which has hung on in the upper midwest persistently, has also reduced demand and, of course then, the low price of natural gas has not contributed to the rosy picture there for nuclear power plants. so i think all of these factors have, play a part. in terms of fracking, i am not an expert on this. i will hold forth from saying anything except to say that it
appears that fracking in some cases does cause earthquakes. >> we're back to fukushima which, of course, was an overriding issue when you came in and still is. what incentive do nuclear plant operators have to insure they spend what is needed to keep them safe from the type of catastrophic accident that occurred at fukushima, and are you confident that they will take appropriate measures to prevent such an accident? >> [inaudible] okay. the incentive that nuclear plant operators have to insure that this kind of accident won't happen is they really don't want to lose that asset. [laughter] and they really don't want to deal with the aftermath. and i think they are all onboard with that. and they have been very responsive to the orders that we put out. i think we are ahead of quite a few countries in terms of
getting that additional equipment on site, at reactors in safe structures. we will be completed, that will be completed by 2016. and many plants will be done before then. so we at the nrc and the industry have worked really hard to try to make that happen. as i said, there's more to do, and we have to keep our focus on that. going forward, but i think we're in a good place right now. >> fracking, excuse me, fracking produces huge quantities of waste. given how it is stored, how or worrisome are the earthquakes that you mentioned? >> well, that was fast. [laughter] and, you know, i thought we were here talking about nuclear, not fracking. [laughter] i don't know. the answer to that -- it's on
the other side -- not being an expert on that. so i will leave that to actual experts on fracking. >> increasing, increasingly, industry applications to staff include information published but only available for fee or purchase. do those costs deny public review of information sources, staff use and review of applications and requests? is there a mechanism to make all documents used by staff in decision making available to the public? >> it depend on the particular situation. i don't think i can be more specific than that. there are some material that is proprietary that we can't share. that's the way it is. so we make -- you know, compared to many other federal agencies, we make a lot of material
available to the public. and i have been trying to push for making as much as possible. so -- and i think under my tenure there, you have seen that we have been as open as we can be. so we're trying. >> i anticipate your answer to this one, but i would like to ask it in interest that we keep our effort to ask as many as possible from the audience. regarding public participation, do you recommend the nrc make materials listed in the federal registry, notice for public comment, be made available to the public and elected officials for review? >> again, there are materials that we can share, and there are few materials that we cannot share. we make as many materials as possible available to the public. >> do you worry that the nrc is becoming a satellite operation for senator harry reid? [laughter]
>> again, i believe that it is absolutely essential for the nuclear regulatory commission and other independent commissions to be just that, independent. to be free from political influence and industry pressure. it's absolutely essential. whenever i travel overseas, whenever i give a speech, that is always a mainstay of what i say. because it doesn't work. and there are some places -- i'm not going to talk about them now -- but some places where countries start stepping back on that, and that's a real problem. that's a concern to all of us. so it's essential that we remain independent. >> is bill ostendorf your favorite commissioner? [laughter] >> of course. [laughter]
i think i embarrassed him. i think that's the first time ever. [laughter] >> just one question before we go into the finale. are you saying then that harry reid is too influential? >> i'm not saying anything. i'm just saying that the nrc needs to be independent and is independent, will remain that way. >> we are almost out of time, but before asking the last question, we have a couple of housekeeping matters to take care of. first of all, i'd like to remind you about our upcoming lunches, and you're welcome to come back, a few blocks away. this friday, november 21, dr. anthony fauci, director of the national institutes of allergy and infectious diseases. on december 1st, teresa sullivan, president of the university of virginia, will discuss trends in higher
education. and on december 5th, gary bettman, commissioner of the national hockey league, and ted leonis, ceo of monumental sports and entertainment will discuss the growth of the national hockey league and the 2015 winter classic. next, i'd like to present our guest with the traditional national press club mug. if i happen to walk by your office, i will check to see that you have it there. [laughter] please accept it with our thanks. and -- [applause] one last question. one last question. many dentists charge about $200 for a set of x-rays. why can't the nrc regulate them? [laughter] >> thanks. >> okay, very good. [laughter] thank you all for coming today. i'd also like to thank the
next three and a half hours or so, votes at 5:30 eastern including reauthorization of childcare block grants to help low income families afford childcare, and votes to advance three judicial nominations for district courts in georgia. tomorrow the senate's expected to take a vote on its version of a bill approving construction of the keystone xl pipeline. live now to the floor of the senate. o order, and the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. eternal spirit, we praise you for being with us this day, for you have embraced our nation as a prized possession, providing us for protection when we need it most. sustain